Class 2A- Christian Academy-Louisville (13-1) vs. Danville (12-2)
The biggest upset of the season occurred in Louisville last week as CAL defeated the 3-time defending 2A state champions Mayfield 48-24, sophomore Milton Wright caught 5 passes for 101 yards and 2 touchdowns to lead the Centurions to victory. Wright has been a superstar for CAL on both sides of the ball this season catching 34 passes for 575 yards and 12 touchdowns to go along with 38 tackles and 5 interceptions.
Wright may be the star but the Centurions supporting cast is a big reason why they will be playing for a state championship on Sunday. Senior running backs Anteneh Thompson and Tanner Palin have combined for 1,092 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns behind an O-line that averages 6’2 230 in size. Sophomore quarterback Austin Carr has thrown for 1,201 yards and 16 touchdowns this season.
Danville is led by their star quarterback Zack Dampier who has thrown for an outstanding 3,151 yards and 38 touchdowns in 13 games this season. Dampier has an array of reliable receivers to throw to including Dmauriae VanCleave, the speedy sophomore has 63 receptions for 972 yards and 9 touchdowns this season. Ellison Stanfield has also shown big-play ability for the Ads catching 48 passes for 856 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Donlevy Harris is a two-way player that will play a big role in Sunday’s contest as the junior running back and inside linebacker has rushed for 1,214 yards and 19 touchdowns in 13 games this season. Harris has a tough task ahead of him as the CAL defense has played lights out in recent weeks holding Mayfield to just 88 rushing yards. It will be important for Danville to establish its running game early in turn creating big play opportunities down the field for VanCleave and Stanfield.
Eli’s Pick – This is a hard game to pick as both teams have been playing their best ball of the season down the stretch but Danville is a year away as they start 19 underclassmen. The line play of each team will decide this game. I’ll take CAL 35 Danville 28.
Class 4A – Franklin-Simpson (14-0) vs. Johnson Central (13-1)
This may be the best game of the weekend as both teams have been excellent in these playoffs. Franklin-Simpson clinched a berth to the state championship in impressive fashion dominating John Hardin 27-7 holding the Bulldogs to just 86 yards of total offense.
The Wildcats have two players that have rushed for over 1,000 yards this season with Saul Brady gaining 1,314 yards and 19 touchdowns along with Josiah Robey who has rushed for 1,086 yards and 13 touchdowns on just 77 carries. Franklin-Simpson has outscored its opponents 540-117 this season, good for the best scoring differential in class 4A.
Something clicked for Johnson Central after their hard-fought loss to Belfry in the last week of the regular season as they have outscored their post-season opponents 211-15. The Golden Eagles are led by star sophomore running back Joe Jackson who has rushed for 1,872 yards and 29 touchdowns on 143 attempts this season.
Jackson is the focal point of the JC offense but look for Geordan Blanton to make some huge plays for the Golden Eagles on Sunday. The Marshall baseball commit does a little bit of everything for JC, catching 18 passes for 545 yards and 9 touchdowns along with 33 tackles and 2 interceptions.
Eli’s Pick – This is going to be a battle in the trenches as both teams rely heavily on their rushing attacks to generate offense. The Franklin-Simpson defense will keep this game close but Johnson Central is a machine this year. Johnson Central 35 Franklin Simpson 21.
Class 5A – Bowling Green (14-0) vs. Pulaski County (12-2)
Bowling Green enters this game with a 26 game winning streak as the Purples have dominated their competition this season outscoring opponents 657-146. The Purples are led on offense by seniors Clark Payne and Jamale Carothers, both of whom should be considered for the Mr. Football award at season’s end. Carothers, a Navy Commit, has rushed for 1,159 yards and 21 touchdowns on 149 carries along with 773 receiving yards and 10 more touchdowns. Payne leads class 5A in passing with 3,329 yards and 39 touchdowns. The Purple faithful believe this may be the best BG team in recent history as they lack any glaring weaknesses.
Pulaski County was not expected to make consecutive trips to the state finals but the Maroons have proved to be resilient in the face of adversity as they came back from a 16 point deficit last week to secure a spot in the finals. Jake Johnson is the star for Pulaski County as the senior has put up Mr.Football numbers this year catching 129 passes for 1,613 yards and 17 touchdowns along with 9 interceptions on defense.
Eli’s Pick – The Maroons have been on this stage before facing Bowling Green for the state title in both 2013 and 2015 but the talent discrepancy is too much to overcome this season. Bowling Green has rolled through its 14 opponents and I don’t expect any different on Sunday night. Bowling Green 48 Pulaski County 21.